What's the Big Deal About Naked Photographs?

Whether or not you think there's anything so horrible about say, having herpes, or being a stripper or sending nude photographs to your boyfriend, stigma makes you behave as if you are ashamed of those things.
Publish date:
April 9, 2012
porn, revenge porn, sexting, nude photographs, M

I like my tits. I think they're great-looking, and sort of wasted being seen by only two people in the world. It's like if Christina Aguilera only sang in the shower, or Jesus had just lay around riffing with his hooker friends all the time. If it weren't for my boyfriend's silly but strongly held conviction that only he's supposed to see me naked, my Google Image search would be way less safe for work. I have to constantly remind myself that Tweeting topless pictures would be inappropriate. Which is why this gross story about gross human Hunter Moore who makes his gross living by grossly running a "revenge porn" site is of particular interest to me. "Revenge porn" means naked cell-phone photos submitted by angry exes and assorted trolls posted online with identifying information including full name and Facebook page. And of course, the obligatory angry rant about what a skanky hobag or lame jerkoff said nude person is. The Internet reaction has been pretty unanimous: "Don't let anyone take naked pictures of you ever." This goes along with the message that Moore says he intends to teach with his website, which is "If you don't take nudes, you won't have a problem." But are naked pictures really the issue?I mean, in general, I'm sort of a nudity, so what? sort of gal. I make a habit to change clothes in front of each new employee of xoJane within their first week just to set that important "You must look at me naked" boundary. It's practically an intern rite-of-passage. I use the communal changing room. I always sort of snicker to myself when I'm getting a massage and the masseuse goes to great lengths to tuck the blanket carefully around each limb before uncovering the next. And it's not cause it looks so amazing, either. Somebody recently told me I was lucky to get a baby without wrecking my body and I was like hahahhhahah this thing's been a junk show for years. But I'm just not that fazed by displaying my stretch marks, loose skin and back fat. My naked body has been enjoyed by enough people that I'm confident in its status as like, a normal human form, not some sort of alien monster thing that's going to cause people to panic. And in my illustrious pre-fiance career, I have let a lot of people photograph me naked. Don't get me wrong, I do not want those pictures surfacing on Moore's website. But it's not cause there's anything wrong with the photos themselves, or because I regret having taken them. No, the reason I don't want them surfacing is stigma. That, and Moore and co's misogynstic attitude toward women's bodies. The site's FAQ describes a "gnargoyle" "a disgusting female who’s had the misfortune of getting her n00dz posted ... for the internet world to see and criticize. Typically gnargoyles are overweight and are, but not limited to, hairy, ugly, and tattoed, with sloppy vaginas. These beasts have the grave misconception that someone would actually want to see them naked."(What's a sloppy vagina, anyway? Does it leave crumbs in the bed and a coffee ring on the kitchen counter?)Whether or not you think there's anything so horrible about say, having herpes, or being a stripper or sending nude photographs to your boyfriend, stigma makes you behave as if you are ashamed of those things. And since the only way to decrease stigma is to come clean about your stigmatized behavior and face the social consequences, it perpetuates itself.Some people who are touting the "Don't take naked pictures of yourself ever" party line are just recognizing that the stigma currently exists. Fair enough, although I don't quite think it's fair to put all the responsbility on women to protect themselves from cruel and exploitative use of their images. But from others, such as Moore himself, I detect a creeping note of "You reap what you sow." I don't think that the existence of a naked photograph gives anyone carte blanche to rob the subject of their agency by recontextualizing the photo and using it to ridicule and humiliate. And ultimately, I don't think "Stop taking nude photographs of yourself" is the most enlightened response to a site that exists in order to shame people for the crime of being naked in a picture. Ideally, I'd rather destigmatize naked pictures. And nudity itself, for that matter. It's just parts, after all. Just a body, just sexuality that technology has given us new ways to share with one another. And what's more shameful, really? Showing your tits? Or being a dick?